There are many different approaches one can take in lawn care. No matter which you choose, it will tell about you.
Let’s examine seven distinctive lawns and what they say about the home occupant:
The perfect yard
1) This lawn is a luscious carpet of soft dense uniform green grass. It announces to all, “I have lots of money, lots of time, or a good mix of both.” This lawn requires constant attention. Perhaps a private service is employed to come multiple times a week, or there is a retired man who has dedicated himself to the cause. (Sorry ladies, but I have never seen a woman show such devotion to her outside carpet.) This lawn also asks, “Why can’t my neighbors take care of their yards like me?” This is the lawn you want to use for picnics and barbecues and Frisbee and photo backdrops. Most of us just do not want it enough to actually achieve it.
2) On the opposite end of the spectrum we have this. Not every neighborhood has one, but you know where to find one. I speak of the yard destroyers. If you just ignore your yard in Independence, Missouri, it will grow something green, but these people have a sea of dirt and mud. How do they do it? The pit bull chained to a tree has something to do with it, but he has a limited radius. How can they have little or sometimes no grass, even weeds?
I was working a residential project when I noticed the neighbor who had a chain-linked front yard (always a good sign.) There was not a single green blade or leaf inside the fence. Children’s neglected toys and stumps protruded from bare dirt. That takes effort! Neglect cannot achieve such desolation. Do they spray RoundUp on everything? Do they send the kids out on seek and destroy missions? Even dandelions don’t survive here.
I grew up in the age where we played out in the yard all the time. All the kids in the neighborhood could descend on a single yard. Somehow, that grass survived. But go to “that” house, the one with where there is always a vehicle on blocks or ramps and beer bottles serve as ornamentation. The window screens are pushed out and newspapers decompose where they were thrown. This yard says, “Jail.” Yes, at least one resident is out of, still in, or going soon, to jail.
3) Between the perfect yard and the lawn destroyers is the “total neglect”. This yard can say many things. You have to know the owner’s situation. Here are some common phrases the knee-high weeds shout to passersby, “I’m in a nursing home and my kids are tired of keeping the place up,” “Caught in a divorce property dispute,” “I moved to a new place and just want to hold on till the market improves,” “I don’t pay my taxes and if I don’t mow, the city will and send me a bill… as if I will pay THAT either.” A lawn left to go to weed seed is sad on many levels.
4) This yard says, “Rental Unit”. There once was an owner family that lived here, but finances improved or the family grew large or mom and dad grew old. The house hit the market and a slum lord (I mean landlord) bought it. I understand that the landlord gave the best price for the house. He provides a housing for people that cannot or do not want to commit to a mortgage but prefer a house to an apartment. But so much is lost. All the flowers that mom planted die out. One by one, the shrubs turn brown. Yard maintenance is limited to mowing. Trees are cut down or trimmed to stubs to reduce falling leaves. The landlord doesn’t want any non-mandatory maintenance cost and the tenant has no motivation to improve another’s property. It isn’t too difficult to look at a house and instantly determine owner-occupied versus renter status.
5) Next up, is the post-traumatic stress yard. Usually found along right-of-ways, it says, “We’ve just been through a mess.” – probably utility or road work. The contractors pick up most of the gravel and debris, scatter some quick-start grass seed, toss on some straw, squirt on some water and hit the road. Grass springs forth and all looks well when suddenly, it turns to a dandelion field. What happened? Did they use half grass seed and half dandelion fluff? No, the damp bare ground is perfect for starting the dandelions. They don’t need to be raked under, just get them bare ground. The seeds fly everywhere, but established lawns prevent the seeds from reaching earth. You could spray and kill off all the dandelions and hope for more grass, or wait and as the dandelions fade, grass will eventually win the battle. It should be over-seeded with a good slow growing grass. The quick-start grass and dandelions are just there to hold the soil until the permanent ground cover is re-established.
6) This photo shows a yard “in transition.” It was traumatized by a backhoe, but is well along the road to recovery. There are still bare patches and stray dandelions, but the wild flowers are well established and good grass is moving in. By next year, this area should be completely healed.
7) Lastly, here is my favorite, the “benign neglect” yard. No weeding, seeding or feeding necessary. Just mow it at the right time and rake if the leaves get deep. Nature has reached a happy balance. There are flowers and a variety of plants for species diversification. The lawn is colorful in the early spring and green until winter. This yard says, “These people care just enough to get by.”